MU pres. issues "call for decency," says former grad student subject to hate over professor's suspension

MILWAUKEE -- Marquette University President Michael Lovell has issued "a call for decency" following what he characterizes as a "stream of hate and threatening messages" leveled against a former MU graduate student on the internet. This, after MU officials moved to suspend political science professor John McAdams without pay until January 2017.

Marquette University President Michael Lovell

Below is the complete message from President Lovell:

A call for decency

A message from Marquette University President Michael Lovell

One week ago, I asked Professor John McAdams to apologize for actions he took to publicly shame one of our graduate students.

As a direct result of his actions, our student — who has since left the university — was subject to a stream of hate and threatening messages.

Professor McAdams characterizes the barrage as “some nasty e-mails and blog comments” directed at the student. But his attempt to downplay what happened doesn’t come close to reality. I feel it’s important to clarify exactly what Professor McAdams so quickly dismisses.

Warning: The following messages are disturbing. Our former student’s name is obscured along with the names of those who posted.

These are just a tiny sample of the type of messages directed at our student, day in and day out. Others are far worse, if that can be imagined. She continues to receive hostile and threatening messages to this day.

Constructive dialogue and vigorous debate cannot exist when our discourse is so degraded. I’m not under any illusions about deplorable behavior on the Internet. Yes, it exists.

But what’s at issue here is a professor inflicting this type of personal attack on a student. That is simply unacceptable.

In the steps we took to resolve this matter, I asked Professor McAdams to take responsibility for his actions and show some remorse for what he put our student through. In response, Professor McAdams defiantly said he would apologize “when hell freezes over.”

Professor McAdams alone can decide whether or not he is remorseful for his actions. But if we are going to sustain our community and be true to our human values, we all need to engage in civil disagreement — not gleeful sabotage and destruction.

I’m not asking for Professor McAdams to be responsible for all the vitriol from the lowest of the Internet. As the president of Marquette University, I am asking for common human decency toward members of our own community. Nothing more and nothing less.

John McAdams

Upon suspending McAdams, MU officials said he could get his job back if he submits a letter of apology by April 4th -- but McAdams does not plan to do that. He instead plans to fight the suspension.

"You  can`t say you have academic freedom unless you...violate Marquette`s guiding values," McAdams said.

McAdams has been banned from stepping foot on campus since December 2014, after he wrote a controversial blog post about a student who felt his instructor (an MU graduate student) blew off a request to discuss his opposition to same-sex marriage.

In the wake of the post, Marquette University had begun the process of firing McAdams.

Marquette University

"Whenever a faculty member engages in behavior that we feel cuts against our behavioral norms and our values as a university, then we need to respond," Dan Myers, Marquette provost said.

On March 24th, McAdams learned his suspension was lengthened until January 2017. He was suspended without pay, and required to write an apology by April 4th.

"That`s a deal killer.  No, I`m not going to do that," McAdams said.

John McAdams

In a letter to the Marquette community posted on Thursday, Marquette University President Dr. Michael Lovell said the following:

"Following the faculty statutes, a Faculty Hearing Committee made up of seven of Professor McAdams’ peers conducted a hearing over a period of four days last September. The committee consisted of a diverse set of tenured faculty members from different academic disciplines. After months of deliberations, the committee issued a thorough 123-page report to my office in January regarding Professor McAdams’ actions.  It is noteworthy to mention that the report provided a unanimous recommendation on a path forward regarding the issue under consideration.

"Today, I want you to know that after significant personal deliberation, I have decided to formally implement the Faculty Hearing Committee’s unanimous recommendation. While I cannot provide specific details of the recommendation because it relates to a personnel matter, I can assure you that my decision has been guided by Marquette University’s values and is solely based on Professor McAdams’ actions, and not political or ideological views expressed in his blog.

"In closing, I want to sincerely thank the seven faculty members who served on the Faculty Hearing Committee.  They provided substantial service to the university through their extremely thorough, objective and diligent approach throughout this process."

This story started with a discussion in a philosophy class back in October 2014. An unidentified student felt Graduate Assistant Cheryl Abbate blew off his request to discuss same-sex marriage. After class, he went up to Abbate to talk about it, and he recorded the conversation. In part, he said: "Regardless of why I'm against gay marriage, it's still wrong for the teacher of a class to completely discredit one person's opinion when they may have different opinions." Abbate responded by saying: "There are some opinions that are not appropriate, that are harmful -- such as racist opinions, sexist opinions and quite honestly, do you know if anyone in the class is homosexual?"

The student took the recording to McAdams, who posted it on his conservative-leaning blog.

In December 2014, Marquette University asked McAdams to stay away from campus. All of his second semester classes were cancelled.

In a letter dated January 30, 2015, Marquette officials informed McAdams the university was moving to fire him. In part, the letter reads: "Instead of being a mentor to a graduate student instructor learning her craft, including how to deal with challenging students, you took the opportunity to publicly disparage her."

Marquette University

McAdams believed the issue wasn't what he did, but rather, the belief he expressed.

McAdams has the backing of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and is now weighing his options.

"They asked me what I wanted to do and I simply gave them a one word answer 'fight,'" McAdams said.

"We have very high expectations for our faculty members and we want our faculty members to live up to those," Myers said.